Editor’s Note: This article is a follow-up to our original story which went out on February 27th. E&P has reached out to Ralph Nader for comment, but he was unavailable. This story will be updated with any comments when available.
An update to this article:
Andy Thibault, publisher and editor of the Citizen, told E&P at 5 p.m. EST on March 6: "Several board members of the CT News Consortium met with the editor and publisher of The Winsted Citizen this afternoon. There was a frank and open discussion of issues to make the paper whole. Discussions are ongoing."
It's an enormous effort to launch a new newspaper, especially in the current reality of news publishing, and maybe even more so in a small town, such as Winsted, Connecticut. The community hasn't had a newspaper since 2017, so Ralph Nader, famed political and social activist, decided to gift his hometown The Winsted Citizen.
Andy Thibault, veteran journalist, was named the Citizen's publisher and editor during late 2022. Within three months, he organized the operational, reporting and marketing elements of a new newspaper; hired a staff of reporters, photographers and contributors; invited distinguished local leaders and well-regarded publishing and journalism professionals to join the board of directors; and published the first two monthly issues.
The Citizen hosted several kickoff events that generated widespread interest in having a newspaper in Winsted again as well as subscriptions and positive feedback from the local population, the business community and the local government. With two issues on the streets, Thibault, his staff and the board of directors were ebullient about what had been accomplished to date and the bright future everyone was anticipating.
Nader also gained national attention with the launch of the Citizen via a number of stories published by Fox News, Associated Press (AP), Public Broadcasting, The Hartford Business Journal and Poynter.
According to reliable sources, however, Nader has yet to provide promised funding for the second edition, which was distributed Friday. Instead, he offered, but did not deliver, an $8,000 loan, which Thibault said the paper will not accept. Payroll also not been met for more than two weeks. The paper is applying to foundations for emergency grants and is continuing to build advertising and subscription revenue.
"It is true we published the second edition of the Citizen without receiving the funding we were promised for 75% of the cost. The paper agreed to generate the other 25%. With continuing support from subscribers, advertisers and donors, we will absolutely honor all our obligations," Thibault said.
Thibault added he told Nader that a pilot edition wasn't enough to generate quick interest from the people and businesses of Winsted. The plan changed to a monthly edition. Thibault said what the paper needed to sustain itself was six months of funding and twice as much for each of those months than the first edition (January 2023). Thibault said Melanie Ollett, manager editor, and Rosemary Scanlon, advertising and circulation director, prepared and presented detail budgets that were requested.
According to Scanlon, the Citizen team has revamped its advertising rates to incentivize local businesses to advertise in the paper. She stated the paper now has more than 150 subscribers, with new subscribers every day.
"I am confident our readership will increase with every passing day, leading to more revenue. While we have much hard work ahead, our incredible staff and extremely supportive community leave me with no doubt the success of the Winsted Citizen," Scanlon said.
Statements from several staff members, freelancers and contributors reflect universal support for the mission of the Citizen and are confident in its future and their continued involvement.
Liz Dupont-Diehl, a reporter for the Citizen said, "This is another example of how broken the business model of journalism has become. Many of us have been willing to work long hours because we believe in good journalism as central to a functioning democracy. The Winsted Citizen represents one valiant effort to provide good local reporting, and we are committed to building a solid foundation for this work to continue."
Bob Sillick has held many senior positions and served a myriad of clients during his 47 years in marketing and advertising. He has been a freelance/contract content researcher, writer, editor and manager since 2010. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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